WHILE world leaders wrapped up the year by gathering in Madrid at the United Nations Climate Change conference, a group of University of Newcastle students travelled to the Pacific Islands as part of a new course focusing on advocacy and the climate.
The 19 law and environmental science students visited Fiji and Tuvalu as part of a course called Climate Connections Across the Pacific, which was developed after Newcastle Law School became the first in Australia to issue a Climate Emergency Declaration on May 7 last year.
The course is a project funded by the federal government's New Colombo Plan Mobility Program.
The students heard from experts and community members facing increasing climate risks.
They learned about climate adaptation works and planted mangroves on a small Tuvaluan atoll to counter increasingly severe storm surges.
Development Studies student Grace Mulligan, 27, said climate change seemed like "a broad and obscure term" before the trip.
"My time in the Pacific has allowed for deeper understandings of the complexities of climate change and the various ecological, social, cultural and political implications it is having, and will continue to have," she said.
"This trip has been an invaluable source of knowledge and collective empowerment."
Law student George Diplaros, 21, said "the ocean is rising and the people of the Pacific are not going anywhere".
"It is our responsibility to fight, make noise and generate awareness. It's collective accountability... and it's not too late!"